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When will I die? Paralysed woman counts down to her end

By Mactilda Mbenywe | January 13th 2020 at 12:00:00 GMT +0300

Margaret Achola in her home in Kisian village, Kisumu West constituency. [Denish Ochieng, Standard]

Margaret Achola stares at a large white wall clock propped up next to her bed as its three hands steadily sweep across its face.

The clock was a gift and has been Ms Achola’s faithful companion as life turns bleaker with each passing year.

“It reminds me of my late husband and helps me to count time as I wait to die,” she says, her eyes not straying from each tick of the second hand.

We find Achola, aged 60, bed-ridden in a stuffy mud-walled house with a rusty tin roof. Outside, the compound is unkempt.

“It has been days since I saw the sun. How is life out there?” she greets us before requesting that we say a short prayer.

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Relatives and friends rarely visit the widow after a crippling spinal ailment robbed her of the ability to walk.

A typical day in Achola’s life reads like the script of a horror movie. Because she cannot stand on her own, she goes to the toilet on her bed.

Her bedding is only changed when a well-wisher or relative drops in to check on her.

Back pains

“I cannot leave the house or the bed without help. Sometimes I stay without changing the bedding for as long as one week because someone may come to bring food but does not change the sheets,” she says.

Her troubles started in 1993 when she started experiencing back pains. In 2000, she was diagnosed with paralysis of the spine at the Kisumu County Hospital.

Achola’s husband died in 1996 and she has no children. Her late husband’s nephew, Fredrick Aringo, tells The Standard that some of her neighbours fear visiting because they believe her paralysis is a result of witchcraft and they could become victims.

“She has been in bed for years and we have grappled with finding a solution but we gave up. She relies on well-wishers to survive,” he says.

But help is not readily available. Achola narrates how she once went several days without a meal. She also regrets that when her mother and two siblings died, she could not attend their funerals because nobody was around to offer assistance.

There is an old wheelchair in a corner of her room that was donated by well-wishers. Achola says it helped her for a few weeks before she couldn’t use it anymore.

Mr Aringo says his aunt has given up the fight to live and she now just wants to die.

“We are willing to help her stand up and walk but we are bewildered by her ailment.”

Jennifer Atieno, a neighour, adds that Achola was admitted at the county hospital in June 2018 and discharged a month later with no change in her condition.

“She is always alone and in pain; she needs more help,” she says.

At the hospital, Dr Thaddeus Massawa says they would need to run more tests on Achola to better assist her. “We will retrieve her records, find out what treatment she received and give further directions.”

Margaret Achola Kisumu County Paralysis
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